Sunday, January 6, 2013

Specializing in Generalities

A few months ago, I took a workplace-oriented strengths test that was supposed to tell me what my talents were. (Before that, I didn't realize that "context" was a talent.) In the introduction, the writers stressed that people don't play to their strengths. Humans apparently have some kind of negativity fixation that makes us pound away at the things we aren't good at, resulting in endless mediocrity for us all. If we stick to our strengths, then we will excel.

There may be some merit to this, but not enough to satisfy me. 

According to Robert A. Heinlein, "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

By these standards, I'm about 2/3 of a decent human being. I'll see if I can get them all by the time I die.

On my bucket list, there are many things I plan to do: learn how to play piano, build a treehouse, perfect a spatula-less egg flip, martial arts, contact juggling, longboarding, bake a yule log, sight read music, perform a standing walkover, beat my boyfriend at Settlers of Catan, and speak another language fluently (since Ubbi Dubbi doesn't count).

More than almost anything else, I love to learn things. This occasionally results in a kind of procrastination ("I can't work on my story, I'm learning how to knit") that can take away from big projects, but I have to think it makes me into a better person as a whole. When I learn something new, I'm better equipping myself to do whatever I may be called on to do. I'm learning not just a new skill, but how to struggle with difficulties and overcome them. The results are often less than perfect, but they're still results. Maybe someday I can use them to do good.

And when I find something I can't do, it's a nice reminder not to take myself too seriously.

I'm not great at everything. Teach me how, though, and I'll try anything. The struggle is good. The overcoming is good. And occasionally, failing is good, too.

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